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What's Working for Top-Ranking Firms?

The State of Legal Marketing: Local Search Trends for Law Firms

Highlights from Nifty Marketing's latest "State of Legal" study.

By Mike Ramsey

Understanding where to invest your law firm’s marketing dollars can be difficult. There are a lot of competing voices and opinions on what provides the greatest ROI. Opinions may have merit in some instances, but data is often the most powerful indicator.

At Nifty Marketing, we have compiled detailed data and conducted in-depth studies on local search performance for law firms in 50 metro areas. We’ve dubbed the study, which we conducted in 2016 and again this year, “The State of Legal.”

We have found that while the old ways of advertising may have some benefit, the most effective approaches for marketing law firms are changing: More and more firms reap benefit from local search performance than almost any other method. But that begs a bigger question: What matters most for lawyers when it comes to performing well in Google local searches?

Here’s a look at some of the most important factors we discovered in analyzing the latest data from our study.

Things That Seem to Matter Most in Local Search


In 2016, when we conducted our first study, the average number of Google reviews for top-performing law firms was 17. Now, that number has increased by nearly 65 percent to 28 reviews. Because Google wants to review companies that are providing positive experiences for their users both online and offline, Google rewards — and will likely continue to reward — firms that consistently gain positive reviews.

Law firms that want to perform better in Google and other search engine result pages should invest in adding reviews to their Google My Business listing. Some firms make requesting reviews a routine part of their process while working with clients. Others use automated systems like GatherUp to ask past clients to review their experience with the firm.

In other reputable local search ranking factor studies, data supports the importance of reviews. According to Moz, Google wants you to have both native (Google My Business) reviews and third-party reviews (sites like Yelp and Avvo). What’s more, these reviews need to be positive, and new reviews need to be added regularly.


SEO conferences have been preaching the value of link building for years. Google relies heavily on links to determine the value of websites, and that is clearly reflected in the sites that generally perform well in search engine rankings. Our study confirms that the average amount of top-performing law firm websites in major metros has increased over 35 percent since 2016; 2,803 is the average number of backlinks to top-performing landing pages. Therefore, if you want to perform better in search results, you will need a plan and strategy for obtaining links from authoritative and local business websites.


Google has been stressing the importance of mobile-friendliness for years. Unsurprisingly, our data indicate that the majority of top-performing law firm websites were responsive or mobile-friendly. In fact, nearly 90 percent of the sites were mobile-friendly.

Page Speed

In a similar vein, Google has also stressed the importance of page speed. How quickly your website loads is an ever-increasingly important factor that plays a big role in a user’s overall experience. Because Google wants to provide the best possible experience, it makes sense that Google would give preferential treatment to websites that load quickly. The Google Page Speed scores for top-performing law firm websites increased by 17 percent from 2016 to 2019.

Things That Seem Less Important

Length of Content

The SEO industry buzzed with the phrase “good, quality content” for years. One common suggestion was to increase the length or word count of your content so that it would be deemed of higher quality. According to our study, though, the average length of the content contained on top-performing landing pages has actually decreased a bit, down by about 1 percent. Providing good, useful, consumable content for your users is always sound advice. However, making your pages thousands of words long may not mean as much as it did in years past.


Top local SEO experts preached the importance of citation volume and consistency for years. However, data from our study and other local rank factor studies agree that citations aren’t nearly as valuable today as they were five years ago. You should make sure your top legal directory and business listings are in order. But don’t invest extensive amounts of time claiming, creating or cleaning lesser-known web directories.

A Three-Point Path

Lawyers, if you want to gain more clicks, calls, clients and cases from the internet, focus on improving your local search presence. Google takes into consideration many factors to determine where a firm’s website will rank in their searches. However, the data from our study can provide a road map for your path to local search domination.

  1. Focus on gaining new reviews on your Google My Business listing as well as other influential platforms like Yelp, Facebook and your Avvo profile.
  2. Develop a plan to acquire more links from other websites pointing to yours.
  3. Lastly, invest in a mobile-friendly website that loads quickly.


“Setting Up Your Firm’s Google My Business Listing” by Mike Ramsey

“Top Tips from Bedlam: ‘The Best Damn Legal Marketing Conference”‘ from Mark Homer, Casey Meraz, Mike Ramsey, Conrad Saam and Gyi Tsakalakis

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Mike Ramsey Mike Ramsey

Mike Ramsey is President of Nifty Ventures and founder of Nifty Marketing and Nifty Law, which brings digital marketing, website design, SEO and content marketing to firms nationwide, and Managing Partner of Bold+Stone investments in Burley, Idaho.  One of the foremost authorities on local search, Mike is the author of “Winning at Local Search: The Nifty Guide to Digital Marketing for Lawyers” and a top-rated speaker at events such as Mozcon, Smx, Pubcon.

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